Check out the latest info and research from Coach Chris' explorations in the Subject of Internal Power.
"rooted in the feet,
generated from the legs,
controlled by the waist, and
manifested through the fingers."
Tai Chi Classics.
This famous verse from the Tai Chi Classics identifies how the various parts of the body act in unison with each other to produce whole body connected power. One of the really interesting and often misinterpreted areas of the body for study is the waist. Some people consider this the pelvis, some the ‘hips’, some the area between the lower ribs and the iliac crests, but we can actually look at the muscle groups associated with ‘control’ to better understand why it is so important to the internal artists.
Methods which utilize extension permeate the internal arts. The idea of extension is different to idea of ‘stretching’ however the two are often confused. When extension is used we actually lead entire chains of tissue out from the body in order to create an elastic like tautness, in stretching we are more focused on elongating a specific muscle or limited muscle group.
Extension plays several roles in internal work. Firstly it is a great way to identify what are often called, blockages or bindings in the body. We may extend our arms out to the side and notice an ache in the elbow or the upper back and this is indicative of the tissue in these areas 'resisting' the extension.
The practice of eliminating the lumbar curve is a common requirement for practitioners of the internal arts. The reason it is of such interest to the internal artist is that it aids in the production of whole body power by De-segmenting the upper and lower halves of the body.
This straightening of the spine with the direction of force is something that we actually do naturally when the loads are heavy enough. To illustrate this point, think of when we push a car, we do not exaggerate the lumbar curve but flatten it out to drive power from the legs to the hands.
An initial point of research for the Internal Arts coach is the relationship between the various muscles of the center and how they relate and influence structural alignment.
Before any of the strength development can occur (pulling silk - winding etc), we need to address these imbalances or misalignment. If they are are not addressed early then the body will build strength over misalignment and compound any per-existing issues.
As Bipeds we have extremely refined balance and proprioception systems keeping us upright. Most of the correction and balance maintenance systems work without conscious thought, they simple activate as and when they are required. This is, of course, how it should be! If our conscious mind was occupied with firing muscles to remain standing all the time we would have very little else we could achieve.
With that said, we can improve our ground connection by Increasing the sensitivity of our balance maintenance systems. The ankle and associated tissues are central to this work.
The ankle is what i describe as a control joint. It controls balance and weight distribution by articulating in association with weight shifts using the various muscles, tendons and tissues of the lower leg.
In some traditions there is a model used for ground contact sensitivity call the 9 points of the feet. This model is very useful for grounding or root training and forms part of the method to increase our Stability. Stability is a fundamental quality for the internal artists, even when stepping and moving very quickly. This is a model we find in systems where students may be required to perform static single leg standing postures or where rooting is a large factor in the styles outlook.
In it we identify the 9 major contact points of the foot and bring our awareness into these areas so as to acutely recognise weight distribution.
The Internal Arts are perhaps best separated from their more externally focused brethren by the softening practices of its practitioners.
This focus on 'softness' or on training relaxation, 'sung' or releasing can sometimes actually become the sole priority of some internal arts styles and practitioners. But there are, in fact, many methods that require a cycle of 'hard' and 'soft' training to achieve their goals. Primarily those related to training connection and elastic recoil qualities.
It is through targeted loading (with or without applied weight), 'wound' isometric holds and other specific practices (which involve some degree 'hardness') that we are able to condition certain tissues so that they become more elastic, springy and strong. These tissues are the connective tissues of the body, the tendons, ligaments and other types of material generally lumped into tissues known as fascia.
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